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“In today’s world, we are looking for ingredients that can give market advantage,” she says. Patel explains that when IFF founded its current naturals program in the mid-1980s, the industry was “not as close to nature as we wanted to be.”
IFF’s botanical garden, a living library founded in 1990, boasts a collection of more than 1,500 plants—some of which date back to the 1960s—including more than 1,000 fragrant orchids. “They range from very sheer, very light, to very animalic,” says Patel. “There could be a very gourmand note that could be used anywhere.” The collection is a constantly evolving project assembled by numerous staff, notably the late naturals expert Braja Mookherjee. To this day, Patel and even some perfumers have returned from travels with the seeds of novel species that might one day bear a signature for a fragrance or fl avor application.
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The process of cultivation is predictably hit-or-miss: some species will not grow at all, while others can take several years to reach maturity. Meanwhile, there are prophylactic considerations—one diseased plant coming into the facility could undo years of work. Stepping into the greenhouse, visitors are asked to sanitize their hands with a cloth. In addition, the greenhouse garden is constantly monitored by the nature-inspired technology team, including an on-staff botanist, to maintain proper temperature and humidity conditions, all of which are computer-controlled. Given the delicate nature of the library holdings, Patel’s team is on IFF security’s speed dial.
Other topics discussed: Reconstituting Nature; Aromatic Plants; The Romance of Flowers; The Flavor Factor; Smelling Session